House begins talks on debt ceiling, 2014 budget

Next week, the House Committee on Ways & Means is having two important hearings. Below are some basic details to be aware of:

First, on Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing for Members of Congress who have submitted or cosponsored bills in the 112th and 113th Congress that address spending prioritization if the debt ceiling is breached. From the Committee’s website:

Congressman Charles W. Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-LA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced the Subcommittee will hold a hearing examining the government’s ability to prioritize its obligations and continue operations should the U.S. Treasury reach its statutory debt limit. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 A.M.

Oral testimony at this hearing will be limited to Members of Congress who have introduced or co-sponsored legislation related to the government’s ability to continue operating when the debt limit has been reached during the 112th or 113th Congresses. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Subcommittee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.

While it is unlikely the debt ceiling will be breached, this could be a very informative hearing to see which Members of Congress have various ideas to prioritize spending.

On Thursday, another hearing is scheduled – the annual Ways & Means hearing with the Secretary of the Treasury. With the President’s budget scheduled to arrive on April 10, the hearing is being held the next day:

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) today announced that the Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on President Obama’s budget proposals for fiscal year 2014.  The hearing will take place on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 A.M.


On April 10, 2013, the President is expected to submit his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal to Congress.  The proposed budget will detail his tax proposals for the coming year as well as provide an overview of the budget for the Treasury Department and other activities of the Federal government.  The Treasury plays a key role in many areas of the Committee’s jurisdiction.

In announcing this hearing, Chairman Camp said, “The Ways and Means Committee is committed to comprehensive tax reform that eliminates tax loopholes, simplifies the code, and lowers rates.  Tax reform that accomplishes these goals can strengthen our economy, create more jobs and allow American workers to start seeing an increase in their paychecks again.  This hearing will provide both the Committee an opportunity to review the President’s tax proposals and Treasury Secretary Lew the opportunity to describe how the Administration intends to work with the Committee and Congress to pass and enact comprehensive tax reform.”

While the President’s budget is mostly a formality in general, and especially since it’s over two months late, the hearing should be very informative as to whether or not we’ll actually have normal order for the budget process in Fiscal Year 2014. (I think it’s highly unlikely, given the major differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions, but it’s always possible.)

The function of these hearings is mostly to give Members the ability to create soundbytes for constituents and the media.  However, occasionally, good things come out of these hearings – Senator Cruz’s recent hammering of Attorney General Eric Holder is one example of this. Hopefully, the two hearings will be more like the latter, and less like the former.